How will you use the longest day?
Today is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year for us in the northern hemisphere. This is when a planet’s rotational axis is most greatly inclined toward the star that it orbits. So today the earth’s tilt towards the sun will be over 23°. This means that the intense rays of the sun reach the northernmost tip of our planet on that day. And because the northern half of our planet tilts fully toward the sun, the hours of sunlight are the longest on that day and the hours of darkness the shortest.
Our ancient ancestors lived more in harmony with the sun and the moon than many of us do today, and for centuries many have kept the Summer Solstice as a day of feasting and celebration. Those of the Pagan faith still do today. We lived near Stonehenge for a while and I can assure you that it’s a really important day that’s celebrated by many – a kind of summer Christmas for play and giving thanks. Crowds of around 10,000 usually greet the moment dawn breaks with a mixture of cheers and silent meditation. But the pandemic has caused the celebrations at Stonehenge to be cancelled this year. Instead, both tonight’s sunset, and tomorrow’s sunrise behind the Heel Stone, the ancient entrance to the Stone Circle, will be livestreamed via the English Heritage social media channels.
But whatever we believe or don’t believe about the Summer Solstice, it’s only fitting that we mark this turning point of our planet – that we do something special with the 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight that we’ll have today. This is more than double the length of the shortest day! The extra hours allow us to do all sorts of things outside – provided, of course, that we stick to lockdown and social distancing rules. I think some are allowed now to have barbecues with certain other people. But if you can’t, or even if you can, why not make a special effort to use the longest day of the year to do something for the environment, to celebrate the goodness of the earth that God created for us all to enjoy. Maybe plan to do some litter picking with your family? Or mow a grass verge or tend some shared space in your neighbourhood? Or, if you can’t get out, why not sign up to support an environmental charity and pledge to support them for the coming year?
But whatever you do, don’t actually be fooled by it being the longest day – in practice, of course, every day has 24 hours – that’s a total of 1440 minutes in which you can do good for others or for the environment every day…….
Photo shows ‘The Green Man’ built at the Amesbury Services on the A303 in readiness for the 2010 Summer Solstice.